Named after the Namib desert that covers most of the coast of southern Africa, Namibia gained its independence from South Africa in 1990. This brought to an end a century of foreign rule, which began with its status as a German colony stretching back to the “Scramble for Africa” era. With independence arose the obvious need for a national flag.
To this day, there are two differing accounts regarding the origin of the flag. The more popular account credits Frederick Brownell with the design, which was selected by a subcommittee out of a pool of 850 submissions. Brownell was a South African State Herald at the time; coincidentally, he was responsible for designing the new flag of South Africa four years later to mark the end of apartheid in that country. The other account involves Roy Allen, an Englishman who claimed that he came up with the Namibia flag, which won a design competition run by the Windhoek Observer weekly newspaper. As a result, the interpretation of the Namibia flag design and colors depends on which theory one decides to believe.
According to the Brownell theory, the diagonal red bar cutting across the flag represents the country’s people and their unbreakable spirit. According to the Allen theory, the red bar symbolizes the blood that was shed during the Namibian War of Independence, a war with South Africa that lasted for two-and-a-half decades. Both accounts agree on the green triangle formed at the lower right side of the flag, which symbolizes vegetation and agricultural resources; and the blue triangle at the upper left side, which represents the country’s sky and water resources.
Interestingly enough, each account omits the interpretation of a color or depiction in the Namibia flag. The Brownell theory leaves out the sun in the blue triangle, which Allen says stands for hope in good governance. And while interpretation of the white stripes that border the red bar is missing from the Allen theory, they stand for peace and unity according to Brownell.
Despite the differing interpretations, Namibia adopted the flag on March 21, 1990: the day it gained its independence. And since then, for the most part, it has fulfilled the symbolism of its flag: as a peaceful and prosperous nation in a continent that is often portrayed as anything but.